LARAMIE, Wyo. — Wyoming is planning a fireworks show after opening its third season under coach Dave Christensen on Saturday night against Weber State. And Christensen is expecting fans will be more entertained by his team on the field this season despite starting a true freshman quarterback.
"As it comes down to any football team, you got to have playmakers and you got to execute," Christensen said. "And I think for the first time since I've been here we're executing on a much higher level, and I think we've got more playmakers than we've had in the past two seasons."
Kickoff at War Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Weber State is a Football Championship Subdivision team.
It will be the second time in three years the two teams have opened their seasons against each other. UW beat the Wildcats 29-22 on Sept. 5, 2009, which was Christensen's first victory as a head coach after 24 years as an assistant coach at other colleges, including Missouri.
Freshman Brett Smith of Salem, Ore., will lead the offense after winning the starting quarterback job during training camp over another true freshman and walk-on junior college transfer.
Smith replaces Austyn Carta-Samuels, who left the team without warning last winter after his sophomore season.
Christensen said he didn't hold back on installing the offensive playbook despite the young quarterback.
"We threw it all at him in a five-day period of time," he said.
Smith, who is only the third true freshman since 1974 to start at quarterback for the Cowboys, is one of nine true freshmen who are expected to see playing time on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense has been a particular concern at Wyoming since before Christensen took over the program in 2009 and it has continued to struggle under Christensen, who was coveted by Wyoming for his prowess as offensive coordinator at Missouri. Wyoming's offense ranked in the bottom 20 nationally in scoring (19.2 points per game) and total offense (285.5 yards per game) last season.
Christensen noted that this year's offense will be more skilled at wide receiver and have better depth on the line and at running back.
Freshman Dominic Rufran of Colorado Springs, Colo., earned a start at wide receiver and two other freshmen are expected to contribute at the position.
"The big thing for us is to make sure that we execute," Christensen said. "As long as we execute, I think our schemes are extremely sound. I think they're good on both sides of the ball."